Friday, October 13, 2017

An Underhand Serve

Once you've experienced the real thing, no facsimile can possibly stand up.

A year ago this month, I'd gone to see Billie Jean King speak, here, and come away dazzled with a fuller sense of who she was as well as her life's achievements. She seemed bigger than life (despite being the same height as me) because her accomplishments made her so.

So while I was curious to see a film version about her infamous match with Bobby Riggs, I'll admit I went to "Battle of the Sexes" mainly to see how well the filmmakers depicted the era.

Right off the bat, they showed their commitment to the decade that gave us disco and Watergate by starting the film using the Fox Searchlight logo from the '70s. Now, that was a nice touch.

And even though they had star Emma Stone gain 15 pounds for the role, nobody, I repeat nobody, would mistake Stone's lithe form for King's athleticism. At least she had the sense to lay off the mascara and lipstick to play King a tad more effectively, although she was still way too classically pretty.

Issues of feminism and male chauvinism (Riggs says he "put the show in chauvinism) pervaded the story, in the same way that those topics became part of so many college conversations back then

Seeing someone use an aerosol deodorant was a fine throwback, as was stockings drying on a shower curtain pole. Been there, done all that.

Probably most fascinating was the decision for the Women's Tennis Association members (founded by King as a way of seeking better pay for female players) to wear tennis dresses that incorporated color into them. I'm not talking the black lace or silver spandex tennis get-ups that came later, but accents of color and pattern that seemed modern and stylish back then.

Clearly color must have seemed like a bold step because King got pushback for wearing blue Adidas shoes for her match with Riggs. Being Billie Jean, of course she wore them anyway.

Where the movie really scored for its authenticity was in using actual audio and visuals showing Howard Cosell providing the commentary on the match. Unfortunately, it also showed him on camera with his arm and hand on the shoulders of the color commentator, one of the women players of the WTA.

Now there's progress: male announcers now know better than to touch their female counterparts unasked. At least on camera.

The music choices were strong, reminding me of songs I hadn't thought of in eons: Tommy James "Crimson and Clover," the Left Banke's "Walk Away, Renee," George Harrison's "What is Life?" and, because no movie taking place in the '70s can be without an Elton John song, "Rocket Man." The Sara Bareilles song, "If I Dare" was an unexpected treat.

And don't get me started on the parallels to today in a story of a talented and well-qualified woman (albeit a controversial one given her attraction to a woman) having to face off against a showboating buffoon and being treated condescendingly simply because she has girl parts.

I hate to point out the obvious, but our strength lies in how smart, talented and funny we are plus that we have girl parts.

Match point.


  1. Cute...I watched the match on TV --boring...old person vs. younger person. End Game.


  2. It really was that, wasn't it, cw? Hard to believe anyone expected Riggs to win!